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average nba retirement age

Regardless of your talent and taking care of your body, no one is undefeated against father time. There will come a time when an NBA player will eventually have to retire. Many players get injured early on in their careers and have to call it quits. Other players like LeBron James defy aging and keep pushing well into their late 30’s. Compared to other sports like football, basketball players on average enjoy a much longer career length.

The average retirement age of an NBA basketball player is approximately 34 years old between 2011-2022 season[1]

This is 7 years longer compared to the average retirement age of 27 for NFL players. NBA players are typically forced into retirement due to injuries, getting lost in free agency, and teams failing to renew their contracts.

It’s worth noting that the average NBA retirement age will vary by player’s positions. In this article, we will take a look into the average retirement age of NBA players by their position between 2011-2021 season.

Summary

  • The average NBA retirement age is approximately 34 years old
  • The average NBA salary is $8.25 million for the 2021-2022 season
  • NBA players minimum salary varies by years of experience
  • The average NBA career length is approximately 4.5 years

Average Retirement Age for Basketball Players by Position

It’s no question that pro athletes are well compensated, but it’s still important that they think about the implications of not properly planning for retirement. According to a study conducted by CNBC, approximately 60% of retired NBA players go broke within the first 5 years into their retirement.

Taking the average retirement age of 34 years old, over 60% of NBA players are broke before they even turn 40. Despite making millions in the NBA, over 60% go broke. That is a serious issue. It’s worth noting that the average retirement age for an NBA player will vary by their position. Let’s take a look at the average retirement age for an NBA player in our graph below.



This data is for announced retirement transactions conducted by the NBA between 2011-2021. Keep in mind that these are averages and that there are players who retired much earlier and much later than these numbers.

Related Reading: Average Retirement Age for NFL Football Players by Position

As we can see, shooting forwards on average have the longest career length, while points guards have the shortest career length. The difference between the two positions is only about 1 year, but it’s still interesting to see the variations.

NBA Minimum Player Salary by Years of Experience

An NBA player’s minimum salary will vary based on the years of experience they have. Listed below are the 2021-2022 minimum salary figures, by years of experience.

These figures also represent a 3% increase from the previous season’s figures, since this is the amount of the NBA’s salary cap increase for the 2021-2022 season[2]. If you’re on an active roster and you just end up riding the bench all season, this is what you stand to make at a minimum.

Official NBA eligibility requirements[3] state that a player has to be at least 19 years old to play in the NBA. This age also satisfies the requirement that a player must be one season away from high school before they are eligible.

Average NBA Player Earnings By Year

According to RunRepeat, the average salary in the NBA is $7.90 million for the 2020-21 season and is projected to hit $8.25 million by the end of the 2021-2022 season.

These figures do not include endorsements, which can push the average player earnings much higher. These are purely NBA salary earnings.

As you can see, the average NBA salary is on a steady incline since 1991 and has doubled in the last 6 years.

What Retirement Plans Are Available To NBA Players?

As we previously mentioned, over 60% of NBA players go broke after five years into retirement. This means that players are failing to adequately plan their retirement despite making millions of dollars throughout their careers. Let’s take a look at what retirement plans and benefits are available for NBA players.

  • Standard NBA pension plan (eligible after 3 years of service)
  • Life-long healthcare coverage
  • College tuition reimbursement
  • Standard 401(k) options

Players have the option of receiving reduced pension benefits starting at 45 years of age. They can receive the maximum pension benefits at age 62. As an example, a 62-year-old who played 10 years or more in the NBA will earn over $215,000 per year from their pension plan.

Related Reading: The Average Retirement Age for Blue Collar Workers

The minimum pension benefit a retired NBA player will get at age 62 is approximately $57,000 per year with just three years of service. These numbers will leave your wondering, how can these players possibly go broke?

Average Career Length of NBA Players

The average NBA career length is approximately 4.5 years [4].

This is an extremely short period of time to have a professional career. After their NBA career is over, many players tend to get jobs in the league as coaches, trainers, or managers in order to stay active in the game.

Recommended Reading: Average Retirement Age for MLB Players By Position

With the average career length at 4.5 years, most players will at least play long enough to be eligible for a pension plan. It’s still hard to fathom the fact that over 60% of NBA players go broke five years after retirement. As such, it’s important to plan your financial future early, no matter how much money you make.


Making Sense of the Numbers

With the average NBA career length of 4.5 years and the average yearly salary of $8.25 million per year, an NBA player can expect to rack up over $37 million dollars in career earnings on average.

This is a massive amount of money in a relatively short period of time.

These numbers don’t take into account the potential for endorsements, which can be a couple million extra. Although this is a large sum of money, it’s important to plan for retirement so you don’t become another statistic.

FAQ’s


When did Michael Jordan retire?

The first time MJ retired was when he was 30 years old in 1993. He then came out of retirement and played with the Wizards until he was 37 and retired in 1999.

Who was the oldest NBA player to retire?

The oldest NBA player to retire is Vince Carter at 43 years, 45 days old.

Article Sources

[1] Data Aggregated Data Over Last Decade 2011-2021 – List of NBA Season Transactions –https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_2011%E2%80%9312_NBA_season_transactions

[2] NBA Minimum Salary Cap 2021-2022 Season – https://www.hoopsrumors.com/2021/08/nba-minimum-salaries-for-2021-22.html

[3] NBA Draft Age Eligibility Requirements https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eligibility_for_the_NBA_draft

[4] Average NBA Career Length – https://www.nba.com/nuggets/features/junior_bridgeman_20100610.html

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